David Miller’s brilliant century proved in vain as Australia squeezed through to an eighth Cricket World Cup final with a three-wicket victory over South Africa.
Miller’s 101 in a paltry total of 212 all out at least gave the Proteas bowlers something to work with and they duly caused Australia plenty of problems – most notably via the spin of Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj and the bludgeoning pace of Gerald Coetzee – but Pat Cummins’ men survived some nervous moments to secure their place in Sunday’s final against hosts India.
Fittingly, it was Cummins, alongside fellow paceman Mitchell Starc, who guided Australia home with 16 balls to spare to finally end South Africa’s valiant challenge.
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South Africa got what they wanted at the toss, sticking to the formula that has served them so well by electing to bat first but their much-vaunted top order was blown away by the Australia quicks.
Captain Temba Bavuma failed to trouble the scorers and they were quickly reduced to eight for two when the destructive Quinton De Kock, the scorer of four centuries at this World Cup, fell cheaply to Josh Hazlewood.
Aiden Markram (10) and Rassie van der Dussen (six) came and went to bring Miller to the crease and he and Heinrich Klaasen finally offered some resistance with a fifth-wicket partnership of 95 on a slow pitch.
When Klaasen departed for 47, Miller took control, working well with the tail to move past three figures before he holed out to Travis Head on the boundary off the bowling of Cummins.
Australian tails were up and it looked like being a routine chase with openers Head and David Warner batting with poise and verve.
Warner (29) was eventually undone by Markram and Mitch Marsh (0) fell victim to a stunning catch from Van der Dussen in the covers but the outcome still seemed a formality until Bavuma turned to his spin duo.
Maharaj’s first ball was too good for Head (62) while Shamsi got Marnus Labuschagne who had been riding his luck for much of his 18.
And when Shamsi bowled the dangerous Glenn Maxwell, the architect of one of the greatest ODI innings in history against Afghanistan earlier in the tournament, the Proteas scented an opportunity.
Chasing such a low total meant Australia were in no rush and Steve Smith and Josh Inglis were happy to tick the scoreboard over until, inexplicably, experienced former Test captain Smith tried to heave all-rounder Coetzee into downtown Kolkata and only succeeded in skying the ball into the welcoming gloves of De Kock.
Inglis went shortly after having been worked over by Coetzee, leaving Cummins and Starc requiring 20 from 61 balls.
Cummins rode his luck, surviving an LBW shout first ball from Coetzee and seeing a sharp chance off Markram dropped behind by De Kock but, from there on in, he and Starc showed all their experience to avoid further damage and set up a title shoot-out with Rohit Sharma’s unbeaten India.
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